“4play: sex tips for girls” is the latest HIV awareness campaign created by Johns Hopkins Health and Education in South Africa (JHHESA), which recently launched “Brothers for Life“, an initiative aimed at men in their thirties.
The story is set in the hair salon of a single mum, Noma, and chronicles her life and that of her three girlfriends, all in their thirties.
Women between the ages of 20 and 34 have an estimated HIV prevalence of 33 percent, the highest of all age groups according to the 2008 South African National HIV Prevention, Incidence, Behaviour and Communication Survey.
“We were asked to develop a show that spoke to women in their thirties and had a new take on HIV,” said Harriet Gavshon, executive producer of 4play and managing director of Curious Pictures, which is producing the serial.
“The underlying philosophy of the show is to talk to women about taking control of their sexuality and safety. Obviously, we know many women aren’t in that position, but there are of course many who are.”
Patrick Coleman, managing director of JHHESA, said younge r people were probably easier to reach than the 30-somethings, but both groups were dealing with complex issues and choices regarding sex and sexuality.
To get their stories, JHHSEA and Curious Produ ctions threw “pamper parties”, to which groups of women were invited for manicures and pedicures, and encouraged to share their histories of love, sex, abuse and HIV.
Acting out the stats
Actress Kgomotso Christopher plays Nox, a married mother who finds her cheating husband may have exposed her to HIV. She said the independent characters and how their story lines unfolded were the main draw card for her.
“Four young, urban, independent women in modern Johannesburg ‘ the whole concept, in terms of a narrative told by very different women, is quite groundbreaking for South Africa,” she said.
“These women are strong and independent, and this is not necessarily financial independence … it’s quite reflective of modern South African women,” Christopher commented. The show captures a wide spectrum of female experiences, from being entrepreneurs to lovers and mothers.
“There are so many different things you can relate to as a woman – the sacrifices women make as caregivers, the disillusionment – especially when it comes to relationships,” she told IRIN/PlusNews. “I have a lot of friends who grab relationships by the balls and think, ‘I’m going to see my way through this terrain and have fun’.”
Moving from matte to glossy
Curious Pictures has produced health dramas as well as mainstream soap operas, and Gavshon said the two genres were more alike than one would think. “We’ve really come to understand, as health educators, that we have to make good drama first and foremost,” Gavshon told IRIN/PlusNews.
“You need good research, good stories, well-rounded characters and interesting plots ‘ the same elements that would make a drama work,” she said. JHHSEA had also concluded that to win audiences, the look and feel of health communication programmes would have to be revamped.
“Good entertainment is key, especially in a very competitive environment, so we wanted to push the boundaries a bit of what you see locally produced,” Coleman told IRIN/PlusNews. “We believe that 4play ups the ante in production values, [portraying] honest stories, particularly from women approaching middle age.”
This feature is used with permission from IRIN/PlusNews – www.plusnews.org